US 20070243923 A1
A progressive prize gaming system including (1) at least one display device having (a) a plurality of prize objects, (b) a prize object holder that holds the prize objects in an individually controlled manner, and (c) a prize object display mechanism for display of selected prize objects to a player; (2) a plurality of gaming devices; and (3) a control device configured to select at least one of the prize objects in the prize object holder and display the selected prize object in order to convey information related to a progressive prize to the player, is disclosed. The progressive prize gaming system may also include a progressive prize display as part of the display device where prize information related to the progressive prize may be displayed. A method for operating the aforementioned progressive prize gaming system is also disclosed where at least one prize object is selected and exhibited to the player to convey information related to the progressive prize.
1. A progressive prize gaming system comprising:
(A) at least one display device comprising:
(a) a plurality of prize objects;
(b) a prize object holder configured to hold the prize objects in an individually controlled manner; and
(c) a prize object display mechanism configured to display a selected prize object to a player;
(B) a plurality of gaming devices, each gaming device configured to receive wagers and allow the player to play at least one game of chance having a randomly determined game outcome; and
(C) a control device in communication with the plurality of gaming devices, the at least one display device and the prize object display mechanism, the control device being configured to select at least one of the plurality of prize objects in the prize object holder and display the selected prize object to the player, wherein the displayed selected prize object conveys information related to a progressive prize.
2. The progressive prize gaming system of
3. The progressive prize gaming system of
4. The progressive prize gaming system of
(A) a plurality of moveable objects;
(B) at least one container configured to hold the moveable objects; and
(C) at least one agitator configured to agitate the moveable objects inside of the container.
5. The progressive prize gaming system of
6. The progressive gaming system of
7. The progressive gaming system of
8. The progressive prize gaming system of
9. The progressive prize gaming system of
10. The progressive prize gaming system of
(A) a container;
(B) at least one game element coupled to the container wherein the at least one game element is capable of receiving the prize object; and
(C) at least one actuator associated with the game element and configured to cause the prize object to engage the game element.
11. The progressive prize gaming system of
12. The progressive prize gaming system of
(A) an opening sufficient to allow passage of the prize object through the receptacle element; and
(B) at least one barrier member configured:
(a) to allow passage of the prize object through the receptacle element when the barrier member is in a first position; and
(b) to constrain the prize object within the receptacle element when the barrier member is in a second position.
13. The progressive gaming system of
14. The progressive gaming system of
15. The progressive gaming system of
16. The progressive gaming system of
(A) a moveable display element comprising a wheel and a plurality of compartments configured to receive the selected prize object, the prize object holder and the moveable display element being in a concentric relationship to each other; and
(B) a moveable display element actuator coupled to the moveable display element and configured to move the moveable display element.
17. The progressive gaming system of
18. The progressive gaming system of
19. The progressive gaming system of
20. The progressive gaming system of
21. A progressive prize gaming system comprising:
(A) at least one display device comprising:
(a) a plurality of prize objects;
(b) a prize object holder configured to hold the prize objects in an individually controlled manner;
(c) a prize object display mechanism configured to display a selected prize object to a player; and
(d) a progressive prize display configured to display prize information representing at least a portion of at least one progressive prize;
(B) a plurality of gaming devices, each gaming device configured to receive wagers and allow the player to play at least one game of chance having a randomly determined game outcome; and
(C) a control device in communication with the plurality of gaming devices, the at least one display device and the prize object display mechanism, wherein the control device is configured to select one of the plurality of prize objects in the prize object holder and display the selected prize object to the player, the displayed selected prize object conveying information related to the at least one progressive prize.
22. The progressive prize gaming system of
23. The progressive prize gaming system of
24. A method for operating a progressive prize gaming system comprising, but not necessarily in order listed:
(A) providing a plurality of gaming devices configured to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game of chance;
(B) providing a plurality of prize objects wherein the prize objects are configured to display game related information;
(C) releasably holding the plurality of prize objects in an individually controlled manner;
(D) displaying game related information representing at least a portion of a progressive prize;
(E) displaying at least one selected prize object to the player, thereby conveying information to the player related to the progressive prize;
(F) providing communication among the plurality of gaming devices, the display of game related information and the plurality of prize objects; and
(G) causing at least one of the plurality of prize objects to be selected and displayed to the player to convey information related to the progressive prize.
25. The method of
26. The method of
27. The method of
28. The gaming method of
29. The gaming method of
30. The gaming method of
This application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/897,181 filed on Jul. 22, 2004, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,083,168. The present application is also a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/937,018 filed on Sep. 9, 2004. The present application is also a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/205,230 filed on Aug. 15, 2005. The present application also claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/747,393, filed on May 16, 2006. The above referenced applications are hereby expressly incorporated by reference in their entireties.
The present invention relates to a gaming device and method of use involving the selection of one or more prize objects to convey the awarding of a progressive prize. More specifically, the invention involves prize objects held in an individually controlled manner that are subsequently moved to a display mechanism for conveying information to a player regarding the progressive prize.
Gaming devices are well known in the art and a large variety of gaming devices have been developed. In general, gaming devices allow users or players to play a game. In many casino-type gaming devices, the outcome of the game depends, at least in part, on a randomly generated event. For example, a gaming device may use a random number generator to generate a random or pseudo-random number. The random number may then be compared to a predefined table to determine the outcome of the event. If the random number falls within a certain range of numbers on the table, the player may win a predefined prize. The table may also contain display information that allows the gaming device to generate a display that corresponds to the outcome of the game. The gaming device may present the outcome of the game on a large variety of display devices, such as mechanical spinning reels or video screens.
Some gaming devices award bonuses in addition to prizes that are awarded in the primary game. A bonus can be defined as an additional prize that is awarded to the player when a predefined event occurs. An example of a bonus game can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,848,932 issued to Adams. One of the gaming devices described in this document comprises three spinning reels and a spinning wheel bonus display. When predetermined indicia are displayed on the spinning reels of the primary game, the wheel can be activated to indicate a bonus prize. The bonus prize is awarded in addition to any prizes awarded in the primary game.
Generally, bonus prizes are offered in such games in order to increase the excitement and enjoyment experienced by players. This attracts more players to the game and encourages players to play longer. When gaming devices attract more players and the players play longer, they tend to be more commercially successful relative to other gaming devices.
In addition, highly visible display devices are utilized on gaming devices in order to attract players. Once players are attracted to the gaming device, they tend to play longer because the display device enhances the stimulation and excitement experienced by players. It is, therefore, desirable for gaming devices to incorporate highly visible display devices.
The applicants believe that display devices tend to be more successful if they are a derivation of a well-known game or theme. They are more successful because players tend to be drawn to games that they instantly recognize. Many players are reluctant to try completely new games because they must spend time to learn the new game. It is, therefore, desirable to provide display devices that are based on well-known games or themes.
The applicants also believe that display devices also tend to be more successful if they utilize physical objects rather than simulations. Although video devices and electronic signs can be used for display devices, players are more attracted to display devices that utilize physical objects. Physical objects can be even more effective display devices if they are movable and they are used in combination with lights and sounds.
Upon an initial examination, it would appear to the applicants that the display device of Keno is an excellent choice for a display device for gaming devices. Keno is well known to the playing public, and it utilizes a highly visible and attractive display device. The display device comprises a container with a plurality of numbered balls. The balls in the container are agitated or jumbled, usually by a jet of air, to a state where they ricochet off of the walls of the container.
In the game of Keno, players select numbers that may be drawn from the Keno display device. The display device jumbles or mixes numbered balls in the container and then draws a predetermined number of balls from the container. Players are paid based on the number of balls drawn from the display device that match the numbers they selected.
However, before the present invention, the Keno display device has been unsuitable for use with gaming devices. One of the reasons this is so is because Keno is susceptible to environmental influences. As the balls are jumbled in the Keno ball device, static electricity, dust, and contaminants build up on the balls. This may cause the balls to stick to each other or to components in the display device thereby influencing the randomness of the game. Furthermore, the balls used in Keno displays may have slightly different weights or sizes that subtly affect the outcome of the game. An important aspect of any gaming device is resistance to environmental influences that could affect the results of the game.
Another reason the game of Keno has been unsuitable as an indicator for a gaming device is that it requires a great deal of human involvement. In many Keno games, human operators are required to read the numbers of the Keno balls as they are selected and input the numbers into a computer or display. Furthermore, operators must regularly clean the Keno balls and the Keno devices to keep dust and contaminants from building up on the balls. Not only does this require excessive human involvement for an automated gaming device (the greater the human involvement, the greater the cost of operating the game), the game is also susceptible to tampering and cheating.
Because of their susceptibility to environmental influences and tampering and their dependence on human operators and maintenance personnel, Keno games are not allowed in at least one major gaming jurisdiction. Furthermore, these disadvantages have prevented Keno display devices and other devices that use jumbled balls from being modified for use with gaming devices. The applicants have discovered that what has long been needed is a way for configuring jumbled ball display devices for use with gaming devices. Although reference is made to the game of Keno, it is to be understood that the present invention may be used with almost any type of ball, jumbled ball, or action unit display device, such as lottery balls, for example.
Similar to Keno, some Bingo game devices utilize a container with a plurality of numbered balls. The balls in the container are agitated or jumbled, usually by rotation of the container. Players receive cards with a grid of cells or spaces. A randomly determined number of symbols is printed in each cell. As balls are randomly drawn from the container, players mark cells on their cards when the numbers on the ball correspond to numbers in the cell. The first player to fill a column, row, or diagonal line on the card with marks, wins the game. Although Bingo devices are well known and provide an attractive display, they suffer from the same problems as Keno devices. Therefore, before the present invention, they have not been considered acceptable for use with gaming devices.
Jumbled Ball Displays
The use of jumbled displays is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,871,171 issued to Rivero and U.S. Pat. No. 5,380,007 issued to Travis et al. Rivero appears to disclose a game device with means for simulating the release of a ball, wherein a rotating drum is provided with numbered balls and as the drum rotates, a ball is released into a transparent tube. However, Rivero is not intended to show the player the ball that is released from the drum. Rather, the ball is held in the tube, out of view of the player, and an electronic simulation of the ball number is presented in a window. This is intended to give the player “the impression” that the ball has been counted. Rivero does not disclose nor suggest displaying actual balls to the player to indicate the outcome of the game or the value of a prize. In addition, in the Rivero device the balls are in a cage and quite exposed to the environment and the potential for tampering. The ball cage of Rivero is also mounted on the front side and well below the top of the gaming machine, hiding the ball cage from view of potential game players who are not in position to see the front side of the machine.
Travis et al. appears to disclose a video lottery gaming device with numbered balls. However, all of the balls are simulations generated by software and no physical balls are actually displayed to the player. Travis et al. also does not disclose nor suggest displaying actual balls to the player to indicate the outcome of the game or the value of a prize.
One of the disadvantages with Rivero and Travis et al. is that no actual physical balls are used to display the outcome of a game. This is not desirable because players prefer to see physical objects rather than electronic simulations of the physical objects. Moreover, players tend to believe that a game device is misleading when the device purports to display a simulation of an object rather than the object itself. This is especially true when the object itself is supposedly available for viewing, as is the case in Rivero.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,088,737 issued to Frank et al. appears to disclose a lottery machine where a player pre-selects a number and is able to view a plurality of indicia-bearing balls being air-mixed and the subsequent settling of a limited number of balls into ball-holding pockets where optoelectronic identification is used to compare the indicia on the settled indicia-bearing balls to the player's pre-selected number in order to determine if a match (prize) has been attained.
Progressive Gaming Systems
Progressive gaming systems typically involve a number of wagering devices that may be linked to a central computer. As players make wagers on the wagering devices, a portion of each wager may be added to a progressive prize or award. With each contribution made to the progressive prize, the size of the prize increases until it is awarded to a player, that is, the prizes increase in value over time. The value of the progressive prize at any point is typically displayed to players by way of a numerical meter or similar display device.
In addition to involving a plurality of wagering devices, progressive gaming systems may also include a prize object bank where the various wagering devices are linked to the bank. These progressive gaming systems, where the wagering devices may be linked physically or by various communication devices, allow players to place wagers, activate games and win progressive prizes based upon the outcome of the individual games.
Typically, display (such as the bank) of prize objects is highly visible to players and spectators to provide visual stimulation and increase the likelihood of spectators placing wagers on the gaming devices. Typically, the progressive prize may be displayed in the form of coins or tokens; however, other visual displays may be used, such as paper currency, jewelry and vouchers. Communication of the overall value of the progressive prize may involve the use of prize objects representing goods and services as well as those representing monetary value. For example, prize objects representing monetary value may be coin-shaped or gold-colored and prize objects representing goods or services may be display balls with appropriate indicia to communicate the goods or service to be awarded.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,032,955 issued to Luciano et al. appears to disclose a progressive wagering system involving a plurality of wagering devices linked to a bank where the latter is provided for storing, displaying and dispensing prize objects. A control device is provided for communicating with the wagering devices and controlling the coin bank.
The present invention provides a progressive prize gaming system comprising (1) at least one display device comprising a plurality of prize objects, a prize object holder configured to hold the prize objects in an individually controlled manner, and a prize object display mechanism configured to display a selected prize object to a player; (2) a plurality of gaming devices, each gaming device configured to receive wagers and allow the player to play at least one game of chance having a randomly determined game outcome; and (3) a control device in communication with the plurality of gaming devices, the at least one display device and the prize object display mechanism, the control device being configured to select one of the plurality of prize objects in the prize object holder and display the selected prize object to the player, wherein the displayed selected prize object conveys information related to a progressive prize. Typically, the plurality of gaming devices may be in communication with each other.
Optionally, the progressive prize gaming system may include a progressive prize display as part of the display device where prize information representing at least a portion of the progressive prize may be displayed. The progressive prize display may be configured to store (as well as display) prize information representing at least a portion of the progressive prize. Typically, the progressive prize display will include a meter in communication with the control device so that the meter may display values for the progressive prizes.
Optionally, the progressive gaming system may include a positioning mechanism configured to transfer selected prize objects from the prize object holder to the prize object display mechanism. Optionally, the control device of the progressive gaming system may be further configured to calculate contributions to the progressive prize based on wagers placed by players and received by the gaming devices; the contributions typically correspond to a predetermined relationship based on the wagers placed by the players on the wagering devices. Game related information may be communicated to the player by symbols on or within the prize objects that correspond to a good or service.
In one embodiment, the present invention also provides a progressive prize gaming system (as described above) where the prize objects in the prize object holder may be hidden from view of the player. In this embodiment, the display device may further include a plurality of moveable objects, at least one container configured to hold the moveable objects, and at least one agitator configured to agitate moveable objects inside the container. The latter embodiment may be configured to provide an illusion that the prize object selected for display in the prize object display mechanism has been selected from the moveable objects within the container.
In another embodiment, the present invention also provides a progressive prize gaming system (as described above) where the prize object display mechanism comprises a container, at least one game element coupled to the container where the game element is capable of receiving the prize object, and at least one actuator associated with the game element where the actuator causes the prize object to engage (attracted to, received by, captured by, for example) the game element. Optionally, this progressive prize gaming system may further include a prize object dispenser configured to release prize objects within the container. Optionally, this progressive prize gaming system may involve actuators selected from one or more of suction devices and magnets. Also in this embodiment, the game element may comprise a receptacle element having opening sufficient to allow passage of the prize object through the receptacle element and at least one barrier member configured to allow passage of the prize object through the receptacle element when the barrier member is in a first position, and to constrain the prize object within the receptacle element when the barrier member is in a second position.
In another embodiment, the present invention also provides a progressive prize gaming system (as described above) where (1) the prize object holder comprises a circular housing having a plurality of compartments configured to releasably hold the plurality of prize objects and (2) the prize object display mechanism includes (a) a moveable display element comprising a wheel and a plurality of compartments configured to receive the selected prize object and (b) an actuator coupled to the moveable display element configured to move (such as rotational movement) the moveable display element. Typically, the prize object holder and the moveable display element are arranged in a concentric relationship to each other in this embodiment. This embodiment may further comprise an actuating mechanism in communication with the control device where the latter is further configured to move actuating mechanism and the prize object holder so that at least one prize object may be moved from the prize object holder to one of the compartments of the moveable display element to convey information related to the progressive prize. Typically, the compartments of the moveable display element are arranged to form segments of the wheel. The prize object holder and the moveable display element may be configured to be rotatable in opposite directions. The progressive prize may be indicated by the combination of a game related indicium appearing on the selected prize object and another game related indicium appearing on a selected compartment of the moveable display element.
The present invention further provides a method for operating a progressive prize gaming system comprising the following steps, but not all necessarily in the order shown: (a) providing a plurality of gaming devices configured to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game of chance; providing a plurality of prize objects wherein the prize objects are configured to display game related information; releasably holding the plurality of prize objects in an individually controlled manner; displaying game related information representing at least a portion of a progressive prize; displaying at least one selected prize object to the player, thereby conveying information to the player related to the progressive prize; providing communication among the plurality of gaming devices, the display of game related information and the plurality of prize objects; and causing at least one of the plurality of prize objects to be selected and displayed to the player to convey information related to the progressive prize.
For the purposes of the present invention, it is understood that “determining (or determination of) a game outcome” shall mean actively causing, deciding, dictating, choosing, selecting or affecting the outcome of the game. This is in contrast to detecting, learning, identifying, discovering, ascertaining or finding out the result of the game outcome.
Among the advantages of the present invention are those directed to:
provide a gaming system utilizing prize objects to indicate one or more progressive prizes;
the ability to convey a random game outcome by selectively trapping prize objects in receptacle elements;
provide an enhanced degree of anticipation by the player by allowing prize objects to pass through various receptacle elements repeatedly before finally trapping a prize object in a specified receptacle element to convey the game outcome;
provide a decreased susceptibility to the effects of environmental contamination from static electricity, dust and other contaminants that may negatively affect the randomness of game results;
provide a decreased susceptibility to tampering and cheating during play of the game resulting in a fair game outcome as perceived by the game player;
provide a visual display that attracts the attention of potential game players to the game device; and
provide a visual display that is entertaining and maintains the excitement and enjoyment experienced by players while playing the game by configuring the games to produce low probability events from which large prizes may be awarded.
These and other advantages may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification, claims and abstract.
The above description sets forth, rather broadly, a summary of one embodiment of the present invention so that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and contributions of the present invention to the art may be better appreciated. Some of the embodiments of the present invention may not include all of the features or characteristics listed in the above summary. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described below and will form the subject matter of claims. In this respect, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the construction and to the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or as illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.
In the following detailed description of various embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of this application. The drawings show, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made with out departing from the scope of the present invention.
In the Detailed Description below, the applicants utilize various spatially orienting terms such as “upper,” “lower,” “horizontal,” and “vertical.” It is to be understood that these terms are used for ease of description of the various embodiments with respect to the drawings but are not necessarily in themselves limiting or requiring of an orientation as thereby described in the following Detailed Description.
The present invention uses tangible prize objects 50 to either represent the value of a progressive prize or to indicate that a particular progressive prize has been won. The present invention provides for multiple progressive prizes that can be offered for any single game or gaming device where a selected prize object may indicate the identity of at least one of the prizes to be awarded to the player. These progressive prizes may have different seed values, contribution rates and hit frequencies.
In one embodiment a plurality of different progressive prizes are available to win and the different prizes may be represented by coins, paper currency, tokens, toys, trinkets, jewelry, coupons and vouchers, for example, and presented in progressive prize display 60 (see
The player may play a base game on gaming device 20. When the player qualifies to win a progressive prize, such as by a base game winning outcome, a selected prize object 50 is transferred from prize object holder 45 to prize object display mechanism 55 to indicate a particular progressive prize shown or depicted in progressive prize display 60. In this case, a random number that is used to determine the outcome of the base game also may be used to determine which progressive prize will be awarded to the player (see further discussion regarding determining a game outcome using random number generators and pay tables in reference to Table 1). The three progressive prizes would be included in the base game pay table.
Alternatively, the progressive prize to be awarded may be determined by playing a bonus game (as the result of a bonus qualifying event). In the case of the bonus game, a new random number would be generated and compared to a pay table. For example, if progressive prize number three is to be awarded, prize object display mechanism 55 would display a prize object 50 bearing number “3” to communicate that the player will be awarded progressive prize number three shown in progressive prize display 60.
In another embodiment, progressive prize display 60 of
Alternatively, prize object display mechanism 55 may involve a vertically stacked arrangement of selected prize objects 50 to communicate the value of the progressive prize (see
In yet another embodiment, other types of prizes may be offered in addition to those corresponding to purely monetary form, such as fixed prizes, goods, services, mystery prizes and similar awards. Communication of the progressive prize value by prize object 50 is not limited to monetary information depicted on each of the prize objects 50. For example, game related information via prize object 50 may indicate an automobile, a vacation package or tickets to an entertainment event. When prize object 50 represents a good or service, a symbol of the good or service may be provided on the prize object to indicate its corresponding prize. The prize object may include a symbol representative of the actual prize. For example, symbols may include a key (for an automobile), a cruise ship (for a vacation), or tickets (for a form of entertainment). In addition, prize objects 50 may take the form of transparent spheres containing smaller objects representative of a particular progressive prize. Typical items that may be placed within the transparent prize object 50 include, for example, toy automobile, model of diamond ring, toy boat and similar representations of non-monetary prizes.
Prize objects 50 representing goods and services may be used in the present invention together with prize objects 50 representing monetary value. For example, the progressive prizes may include goods and services as well as monetary value. For cases where the progressive prizes may be of mixed types, various prize objects 50 may have different appearances to allow players to distinguish among the different progressive prizes available.
Alternatively, prize objects 50 may also represent only a portion of a good or service. In this case, a player may be required to accumulate (win) more than one prize object 50 representing the desired progressive prize in order to actually win the prize. For example, a player may be required to collect ten of prize objects 50 representing an automobile in order to win the progressive prize corresponding to the automobile. Players may be stimulated to continue to play the present invention if they have won less than the number of prize objects 50 required to win the ultimate prize. This provides for the progressive prize gaming system to contribute a larger number of individual prize objects to the total progressive prize over a given period of play because the assigned value of each prize object may be relatively small.
Control device 30 may include one or more devices for controlling progressive gaming system 10. For example, control device 30 may comprise one or more controllers, such as computers with software for communicating with gaming devices 20 and other mechanisms shown in
Specific examples of the gaming devices 20, control devices 30, display devices 40, prize object holders 45, prize objects 50, and prize object display mechanisms 55 of
One embodiment of the gaming devices 20 of
With continuing reference to
Game apparatus 20B is typically controlled by an electronic controller 82 (see
Game apparatus 20B may also be capable of producing a bonus-activating event. This event may be many different types of events. For example, a bonus-activating event may comprise displaying a particular symbol, such as a “bonus” symbol, or combination of symbols, such as three “7” symbols, on reels 22-24. If the game being played is poker based, the bonus-activating event may be occurrence of a certain hand, such as a royal flush. Furthermore, a bonus-activating event may occur when a player accumulates a number of symbols or game outcomes over a number of separate game plays. For example, a bonus-activating event may occur when the player receives three “bonus” symbols during a period of time. The bonus-activating event may be based on an external event. For example, a bonus-activating event may occur when a group of players obtain a certain result.
Jumbled Ball Display
With continuing reference to
Container 16 may have many different shapes, such as a sphere, cube, cylinder or triangle, for example. In one embodiment, container 16 is substantially spherical with a partially flat back (not shown). The flat back allows container 16 to be large while still allowing gaming device 20A to placed against a wall, another gaming device, or other objects.
Although display balls 18 are typically similar to Keno balls, many other types of balls may be used. For example, display balls 18 may be ping-pong balls or rubber balls. Jumbled ball display 12 also comprises an agitator (not shown in
Fins (not shown) may also be provided at the bottom of container 16 to help agitate display balls 18. The fins support display balls 18 when they are resting at the bottom of container 16. This helps air circulate underneath display balls 18 to lift and separate the balls. The purpose of jumbled ball display 12 is to attract and entertain players. When display balls 18 are agitated, they produce a vivid display that attracts the attention of people nearby and provides an exciting display for players playing gaming device 20A. Display balls 18 are typically kept separate from balls (prize objects) used in display device 14.
In this embodiment, a separate jumbled ball display 12 is provided for each game apparatus 20A. Each jumbled ball display 12 may comprise container 16 in the shape of a hemisphere. Containers 16 may be placed back to back so that the two containers have a spherical appearance when viewed from the side. Other shapes, such as cubes and cylinders, may also be used. A mirror may be placed at the back of each container 16 to enhance the appearance of the jumbled ball displays 12 by reflecting images of jumbled display balls 18 outward toward the players. Containers 16 may also be one single container that is divided in two by a mirror or other partition. Each container 16 has its own independently operated agitator and jumbled display balls 18. Each game apparatus 20B has its own independently operated prize display 14 with display window 30A.
Turning now to
Controller 76 is configured to detect when a bonus activating event occurs in game apparatus 20B. This may be accomplished by game apparatus controller 82 transmitting a signal to controller 76 that a bonus event has occurred. For example, controller 82 may determine the outcome of each game and when a bonus-activating outcome occurs, it transmits a signal to controller 76. Alternatively, controller 76 may periodically interrogate controller 82. In another embodiment, one or more sensors may be provided for determining if a bonus activating event has occurred. For example, sensors 84-86 may sense the positions of reels 22-24. When reels 22-24 are in a bonus activating position, controller 76 would sense this position and begin a bonus sequence (described below). Sensors may also be provided external to gaming device 10 to detect external bonus-activating events.
Controller 82 may also transmit a variety of information to controller 76. For example, controller 82 may signal when coins or currency have been inserted, when a game starts, when an error has occurred, and when a sensor detects tampering.
When controller 76 detects a bonus-activating event, it may begin a bonus sequence by activating display 110. Display 110 may comprise many different kinds of display devices, such as video screens, lights, light emitting diodes (LED), for example. Display 110 may comprise its own controller that is configured to generate a variety of displays.
Display 110 may indicate that a player has qualified for a bonus round and prompt the player to perform an action. In this embodiment, the player is prompted to activate the bonus sequence by pressing input device 90. Input device 90 may be a simple button, a keyboard, or a touch screen display. In the embodiment in which the player must accumulate a number of bonus symbols to qualify for a bonus, display 110 may indicate the number of symbols the player has received.
When controller 76 detects input device 90 being activated, the controller would activate the agitator in jumbled ball display 12. In one embodiment, the agitator comprises blower 50A, which blows air into container 16. Alternatively, the agitator may begin automatically and input device 90 may be used to initiate the display sequence. In another embodiment, controller 76 may wait a predetermined time period for the player to activate input device 90. If the player does not activate input device 90 in that time period, controller 76 would automatically activate the display 12 and initiate the display sequence. In yet another embodiment, controller 76 automatically initiates the display sequence in a predetermined time period, independent from input device 90, and input device 90 is only used to activate the jumbled ball display 12. It is understood that no input device may be used and controller 76 may automatically activate display 12 and begin the display sequence.
To display a prize ball, controller 76 performs a routine to determine which ball (prize object) will be displayed. This may be performed by a number of methods that are well known in the art. For example, prize balls 92 may be sequentially displayed or displayed based on external events, such as certain bonus activating events may always cause the same prize ball to be displayed.
In one embodiment, however, prize balls 92 are randomly selected. Controller 76 generates a random number and then compares the random number to a pay table similar to that described for game apparatus 20 or as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,823,874, issued to Adams. A simple pay table may appear as follows:
For example, if the random number generator produced 0.65, prize ball number 2 would be displayed and $5.00 would be awarded to the player. If the random number generator produced 0.80, prize ball number 3 would be displayed. Prize ball number 3 is a multiplier ball that multiplies some amount produced by game apparatus 20B. Gaming apparatus 20B, for instance, may award $20 and the multiplier ball would multiply this by two, awarding the player $40.
This embodiment is not necessarily limited to the example pay table shown. A greater number of prize balls may be used and, as will be discussed below, a combination of prize balls may be displayed. Furthermore, different kinds of prizes, besides monetary prizes, may be awarded. For example, the prizes may be goods, services, or additional games. The goods and services may be awarded in the form of physical objects, tickets, vouchers, coupons and similar items. Additional games may be presented in the form of tickets, such as scratch off lottery tickets. In the embodiments in which tickets, vouchers, and coupons are used, the objects are dispensed using an internally or externally mounted dispenser 111. Such dispensers are well known in the art.
Once controller 76 determines the prize ball to be displayed and the prize to be awarded, the controller activates a positioning mechanism 77. Positioning mechanism 77 is configured to position a selected prize ball (that is separate from display balls 18) so that it can be displayed. Positioning mechanism 77 may utilize a large variety of devices to achieve its purpose. In one embodiment, all of the prize balls are held in a prize ball (prize object) holder 58. Prize ball holder 58 may be made from a variety of materials, such as plastics, metals, or composites. In one embodiment, prize ball holder 58 is cast high-density urethane foam that is machined to obtain a precise shape. In one embodiment, ball holder 58 is injection molded plastic.
Prize balls 92 typically have a similar appearance to display balls 18 in container 16. This creates the illusion that balls displayed in display window 30A originate from container 16. At least one of prize balls 92 has a symbol that is capable of indicating a prize to be awarded to the player.
Prize balls 92 are stored in prize ball holder 58 in an individually controlled manner so that individual balls can be selectively removed from the prize ball holder. This allows particular prize balls with particular symbols or values to be individually manipulated and displayed when desired. This may be accomplished in different ways. In one embodiment, prize ball holder 58 comprises a chamber 62 for each prize ball 92 stored in the holder. A display mechanism 29 is provided for removing prize ball 92 stored in chamber 62, displaying the ball, and replacing it in the chamber.
In another embodiment, prize ball holder 58 is cylindrical as illustrated in
In one embodiment, holder 58 is arranged to allow the force of gravity to remove balls 92 from the holder. Referring now to
If the ball is detected in its proper position, controller 76 may cause display 110 to display the prize, if any, that the player has won. Other effects may also be presented, such as pre-recorded sound from speakers. If the actual prize is money, the amount of the prize may be added to the player's credit meter or the prize may be dispensed from dispenser 111 or coin dispenser 27 (not shown).
After ball 92 has been displayed long enough, controller 76 operates a valve 54 to divert exhaust air from container 16. While blower 50A is in operation, air is allowed to escape container 16 through an exhaust duct 52. Valve 54 is used to divert air from a vent 104 to a display duct 56. Display duct 56 directs air to the bottom of display window 30A where it blows the ball 92 upwards back into chamber 62. An upper opening 102 is provided in chamber 62 for allowing air to escape from the chamber thereby producing an air current. Sensors 72 and/or 71 may be used to verify that ball 92 has returned to chamber 62. If the ball is not detected in its proper position, controller 76 may enter an error mode and an attendant is called. In one embodiment, shown in
Components of the apparatus may be arranged alternatively so that ball display window 30A is located above holder 58 and ball 92 is blown upwards into the display. When valve 54 is closed, the force of gravity pulls ball 92 back into chamber 62. In this alternate embodiment, once ball 92 has returned to chamber 62, controller 76 closes gate 66 by activating actuator 64, turns off blower 50A, and waits for the next activating event.
A power failure or power surge could cause actuator 64 to malfunction and improperly open gate 66 while prize display 14 is idle. This would cause prize ball 92 to fall out of chamber 62 into display window 30A, thereby giving a false indication that the player had won a prize. In order to prevent this, in one embodiment, at least one chamber 62 does not have prize ball 92 (see
It is understood that other methods for agitating display balls 18 may be provided. In addition, other methods for actuating and displaying prize balls 92 may be used. The present invention is not limited to any particular method or apparatus for agitating or displaying display balls 18 and/or prize balls 92.
For example, in certain embodiments, including embodiments discussed further below, display balls 18 may be agitated by actuation of jumbled ball display 12. If display balls 18 are agitated by actuation of jumbled ball display 12, it may be desirable to employ other methods of actuating and displaying prize balls 92. For example, if an air compressor is not needed for agitation of display balls 18, it may be beneficial to modify the method of displaying prize balls 92 so that the air compressor may be eliminated from game apparatus 20B.
For example, as illustrated in
Because some balls are very light, static electricity can cause the balls to stick to each other and to other components. To prevent this, a variety of static discharge devices 106 may be placed in various locations in the apparatus. In one embodiment, static discharge device 106 (
Prize display 14 may also comprise means for simultaneously displaying a plurality of balls 92. To accomplish this, plate 68 may have multiple holes 67 (not shown), each with its own gate 66 and actuator 64, for supplying balls to multiple display windows. Thus, holder 58 may be positioned so that the appropriate ball is positioned over the appropriate hole 67 for supplying the appropriate display window 30A. Alternatively, a plurality of prize ball holders 58 may be provided, each one supplying balls to a separate display window 30A.
In yet another embodiment, seen in
With multiple prize balls being displayed, it is possible to use combinations of balls to indicate various bonus outcomes or value of a particular progressive prize. It is also possible to replace the primary display of a gaming device with selector and prize display device 14. In other words, game apparatus 20B may be entirely replaced with selector and prize display device 14.
As seen in
Turning now to
Moveable display element 722 may be moveable relative to prize objects 730. Compartments 724 may be designed to receive one or more prize object 730. Each compartment 724 may have one or more game related indicium 740. Game related indicium 740 may represent a multiplier, a prize amount, a good or a service, as well as a progressive prize. Game related indicium 740 may be a character, symbol, picture, color or other representation. In other embodiments, compartments 724 may be decorated or accented with various graphics, lights, and designs that serve to make the prize display 720 more aesthetically pleasing, but do not convey game related information.
In at least one embodiment, each compartment 724 (of
Air may be supplied to vent 774 by any suitable means. In at least one embodiment, a fan 787 is placed below vent 774. Fan 787 may be activated when directed by a controller, not shown.
At least one roller 836 is in communication with a drive mechanism 850. Drive mechanism 850 may be any suitable drive mechanism. One possible drive mechanism 850 includes a motor 852 having a drive shaft 854. Motor 852 may be a stepper motor, servo motor, dc (direct current) motor and similar devices. A belt 856 may be attached to drive shaft 854. Belt 856 may also be connected to rod 860 which may have a drive ring 862 having a belt channel 864 formed therein for securely receiving belt 856.
A drive mechanism 870 may be provided for moving prize object holder 726. Prize object holder 726 may be attached to a rod 872. Rod 872 may be coupled to a drive shaft 874 extending from motor 876. Motor 876 may be a stepper motor, servo motor, dc motor, or the like.
One or more positioning systems may be provided for tracking the position of moveable display element 722 and/or prize object holder 726. A variety of positioning systems may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention. Certain positioning systems may employ one or more sensor 884, which may be an optical sensor. Sensor 884 may be configured to detect transmitters, optical interrupts, reflective or absorbent paint, or other identifying characteristics of prize object holder 726, these characteristics are generically represented as 888. The position of prize object holder 726 or moveable display element 722 may also be determined if an indexing motor, such as a servo motor or stepper motor, is used.
Second stepper motor 914 may have a shaft 922, which passes through first stepper motor 912 in tube 916 and attaches to prize object holder 726. Prize object holder 726 and moveable display element 722 may be moved clockwise or counterclockwise and may operate independently of each other.
Actuating mechanism 900 may further have at least one positioning system. A portion of tube 916 opposite to the end attached to moveable display element 722 may be attached to first positioning system 926. A second positioning system 928 may be attached to the end of shaft 922 opposite to the shaft end attached to prize object holder 726. First positioning system 926 and second positioning system 928 allow for tracking the position of shaft 922 and tube 916. First positioning system 926 and second positioning system 928 may have sensors 930 and 932 that detect rotation and transmit signals that can be used to determine the angular position of moveable display element 722 and prize object holder 726. A controller (not shown in
At decision 1012, it is determined whether the game outcome is a bonus qualifying outcome. If, at decision 1012, it is determined that the game outcome is not a bonus qualifying outcome, method 1000 proceeds to step 1014 and awards any prizes, including progressive prizes, the player has won. Method 1000 then returns to step 1004.
If the game outcome is a bonus qualifying outcome, method 1000 proceeds to step 1016 and starts to move moveable display element 722. Optionally, at step 1018, prize object holder 726 is moved.
At optional decision 1020, the player may be allowed to provide input through input device 760 (
Method 1000 is further illustrated by the following Example 1: A player places a wager of $0.50 on a gaming device; a primary game is presented to the player. The primary game randomly determines a game outcome that awards the player $10.00 and qualifies the player for a bonus game where the player will win $50. A moveable display element 722, appearing as a wheel with compartments 724 bearing prize amounts begins to spin. A prize object holder 726, appearing as a wheel with a plurality of prize balls 730, each ball 730 bearing a multiplier, begins to spin.
A button 760 is made activatable; the player activates button 760 and moveable display element 722 stops with a base award of $10 being indicated. Prize object holder 726 continues to spin for a predetermined time period, or until the player presses button 760. Prize object holder 726 stops and a 5× multiplier is indicated by a ball bearing “5×” entering the compartment indicating a base award of $10. The player is awarded a $50 bonus prize, the product of the base award and the multiplier.
In certain embodiments, moveable display element 722 may be replaced by a display 720. Display 720 may have one or more display sections, or compartments, 724 configured to receive a prize object 730. Display 720 may be provided with one or more game related indicium 740 and/or visual elements 754 (see
Various forms of prize object display mechanisms are presented in the discussion of the following
Suction device 414 may be triggered by a controller 430. Controller 430 may the same as a controller for gaming device 10, for a bonus game, or may be a separate controller (that may be in communication with the controllers for a primary game and/or a bonus game). Controller 430 may also control the amount of suction produced by suction device 414.
Controller 430 may be in communication with one or more valves 434, such as valves 436, 438, 442, 444, and 446. Valves 434 may be electronic or mechanical and may be individually controllable. Valves may be located or placed between a game element and an actuator. In certain embodiments, the amount of suction through valves 434 is controllable. For example, it may be desirable to control the amount of suction applied to multi-object receptacle 456. The amount of suction may determine how many objects are held within multi-object receptacle 456. For example, more suction may be applied if four prize objects 18 are to be held than if just one prize object 18 is to be held in multi-object receptacle 456.
Valves 434 may be used to activate a plurality of game elements, such as receptacles 456, 460 and 462. The game elements can be activated individually, or more than one game element may be active simultaneously. That is, each game element may be selectively actuatable by a controller in communication with a particular actuator. For example, a game designer may wish to have a prize object 18 sucked into prize display 320 (through opening 458) while at the same time holding a prize object 18 on object receptacle 460. It may be desirable to apply varying degrees of suction to different game elements. For example, more suction may be required to pull prize objects 18 into object receptacle tube 462 than to hold a movable object on object receptacle 460.
Controller 430 may be in communication with object control elements, such as gate 470. Gate 470 may be useful in preventing prize objects 18 from entering or escaping certain game elements. For example,
Prize displays 320 may be associated with one or more game elements, such as object receptors 460 (see
As illustrated in
Other prizes may be awarded, including higher multipliers (such as multiplier 646) and jackpot prizes (such as jackpot 648, which may be a progressive prize). The prize or prizes awarded may be controlled by the amount of suction applied to multi-object holder 624 and/or single-object holders 620. For example, applying greater suction to multi-object holder 624 may attract more prize objects 18 into multi-object holder 624. The game outcome may be indicated by a combination of multi-object holder 624 and one or more single-object holders 620. For example, multi-object holder 624 may determine a multiplier and single-object holders 620 may indicate a prize which will be multiplied by the multiplier.
Game play may be similar to previously described embodiments where selective application of suction to object receptors 1730 may convey a randomly determined game outcome. Indicia 1740 may be placed on or proximate to object receptors 1730 in order to convey the prize awarded by a particular object receptor 1730. Indicia 1740 may include, for example, prize amounts 1742, multipliers 1744, jackpot prizes 1746, goods or services (not shown), free game play (not shown), and other prizes.
Using prize objects 18 having different sizes, shapes, or movement characteristics may allow for additional flexibility in game design. For example, jackpot object 1720 may be heavier than movable objects 18. Accordingly, jackpot object 1720 may require a larger object receptacle 1760 in order for enough suction to be applied to attract and hold jackpot object 1720.
In some cases, it is possible that prize objects 18 will also be attracted to object receptacle 1760, in addition to jackpot object 1720. One solution to this issue may be to alter the movement characteristics of prize objects 18 and/or jackpot object 1720. For example, object receptacles 1730 that are to hold prize objects 18 may be located on lower portions of container 16. Object receptacle 1760 may be placed on higher portions of container 16. Prize objects 18 may be constructed to bounce travel less highly in container 16 than jackpot object 1720. In this way, it will be possible for jackpot prize object 1720 to reach object receptacle 1760, but not prize objects 18.
Multi-object holder 1830 may contain a plurality of segments 1834, each segment being capable of receiving a prize object. Segments 1834 may have indicia 1838 indicating prizes such as prize amounts 1842, multipliers 1844, and jackpot prizes 1846. Additional indicia 1840 may also be included. For example, as shown in
Movable objects 18 may be attracted to multi-object holder 1830 using suction, as previously described. Alternatively, movable objects 18 may simply be agitated within container 16, or placed in motion above multi-object holder 1830, such that movable objects 18 will occasionally enter multi-object holder 1830 on their own accord.
It may be desirable to ensure that no more movable objects 18 enter multi-object holder 1830 than are required to indicate a randomly determined game outcome. While agitation or other motion of prize objects 18 can be ceased once the game outcome is achieved, there may be the possibility of stray prize objects 18 entering multi-object holder 1830 (or other game elements, when present).
A gate 1862 may be activated to cover (that is, limit access to) the opening 1860 of multi-object holder 1830 when the game outcome has been indicated. Gate 1862 is shown in
Various prize object return mechanisms may be used to transport prize objects from lower portions of the container to the prize object dispenser without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, a conveyer belt type system could be employed. The conveyer belt might have one or more tracks, scoops, buckets, or other means for carrying prize objects 18 from the bottom of container 16 to object dispenser 1920.
Alternatively, a waterwheel type mechanism could be used. The waterwheel may have a series of groves or compartments that may scoop up prize objects 18 from the lower part of container 16 and carry them as the wheel rotates to an upper portion of container 16 for delivery to object dispenser 1920. The waterwheel may be configured to feed prize objects 18 directly into prize object dispenser 1920. Alternatively, the waterwheel mechanism may feed prize objects 18 into a delivery system that will convey prize objects 18 to object dispenser 1920. For example, prize objects 18 may be dropped onto a slide or funnel that utilizes gravity to feed prize objects 18 into object dispenser 1920.
Another suitable object return mechanism may be an auger (not shown). Prize objects 18 may be directed to the auger, which may have channeled spirals to better hold prize objects 18. As the auger rotates, prize objects 18 will be carried upwards towards the top of container 16. At the top of container 16, prize objects 18 may be directed into a slide, funnel, or similar mechanism for delivery to object dispenser 1920. It is understood that the present invention is not limited to any particular object dispenser or object transport mechanism. Any suitable known, or later developed, object dispenser 1920 and/or object transport mechanism may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention.
Once prize objects 18 have been released from object dispenser 1920, they may fall to the lower portion of container 16, perhaps entering object receptacle chute 1930 of their own accord. Alternatively, prize objects 18 may be attracted to object receptacle chute 1930 using suction, as previously described. A variety of obstacles 1940 may be included in container 16. Obstacles 1940 may be made from any suitable material, such as plastic and acrylic polymer. The inclusion of obstacles 1940 may make for a more interesting display because some prize objects 18 may strike obstacles 1940 and ricochet in various directions.
Object receptacle chute 1930 may be equipped with a gate 1950 that may be moved to position 1952, as previously described with regard to
In certain embodiments, a random game outcome is determined (including identification of a progressive prize) and conveyed to the player by the number of prize objects 18 passing into and through object receptacle chute 1930. As prize objects 18 pass through object chute 1930, they may actuate a counter 1954. Counter 1954 may be in communication with a controller so that a gaming device can determine when the game outcome has been conveyed, activate gate 1950, and deactivate object dispenser 1920. Counter 1954 may also be in communication with a display area 1964 that may display the game outcome to the player.
In one embodiment, all of prize objects 18 may represent the same value, perhaps 10 credits. The random game outcome may be a number of credits. Prize object display mechanism 55 may be activated until a sufficient number of prize objects 18 have passed through object chute 1930 to indicate the game outcome.
It is understood that other game elements can be used instead of object receptacle chute 1930. For example, a hoop 1956 could be used. At least one advantage of object receptacle chute 1930 may be to assist players in determining the prize they will receive. Prize objects 18 may move more slowly, and/or be more visible, when in object chute 1930, potentially making it easier for player to see the game outcome.
Again referring to
In the case where a barrier member is a magnet, the first or “open” position of the barrier member corresponds to the magnet being inactive or “off” so that prize objects 18 may pass freely through the receptacle element. The second or “closed” position of the magnet barrier member would correspond to the magnet being activated or “on,” in which case the magnet is designed to attract and constrain or immobilize a prize object 18 as it is passes through the receptacle element. When magnets are used as barrier members, prize objects 18 may be coated with an appropriate metallic substance that allows interaction with the magnet barrier member. Alternatively, magnet barrier members may be used where the magnetic field is always active and only certain prize objects 18 are coated with a magnetically attractive substance; in this latter case, any uncoated prize objects 18 would pass freely through the various receptacle elements containing magnet barrier members, and any magnetically-coated prize objects 18 would be captured as they pass into the receptacle element.
Each of the various receptacle elements may have game-related indicia 2370 located thereon (or associated with specific receptacle elements) that represent the various prizes available to the player; for example, receptacle element 2310 bears a “2×” multiplier award, receptacle element 2330 bears a “10×” award and receptacle element 2350 corresponds to a possible “jackpot” award. For example, if receptacle element 2310 corresponds to a prize to be awarded as a result of the game outcome determined by the random number generator, a controller (not shown) will activate the flip door 2320 of receptacle element 2310 to move from a first (open/retracted) position to a second (closed) position, after which any prize object 18 entering receptacle element 2310 will be constrained (trapped) inside. Movable object detectors, such as sensors (not shown), configured to detect the presence of the trapped prize object 18 within the prize-winning receptacle 2310, then communicate this result to the controller and the controller terminates any further prize object 18 delivery/agitation within container 2300. Suitable movable object detectors include, for example, optical sensors, bar code sensors and inductive sensors.
The prize is then awarded to the player, for example, by updating a credit meter (not shown) and the controller causes the door 2320 of receptacle element 2310 to return an open/retracted position, allowing the trapped prize object 18 to return to the other prize objects 18 at the bottom of container 2300, at which point a new game play may be initiated.
Receptacle element 2330 (
Again referring to
In another embodiment of the present invention, the receptacle element may comprise a plurality of segments, each segment capable of receiving and constraining one or more of the plurality of movable objects. In this case, the receptacle element may include a plurality of barrier members, each of the barrier members being associated with a specific segment, and each segment being associated in turn with at least one game-related indicium. Typically, a controller may be used to individually activate each of the barrier members associated with the specific segments. FIG. 22A shows receptacle element 1410 (similar to game element 1830 of
Barrier actuators (not shown in FIGS. 21/22A/22B for clarity purposes) are used for activation of the barrier members 2320, 2340, 2360 and 1430 of the receptacle elements shown in FIGS. 21/22A/22B and may include, for example, solenoids, motors, magnets and similar devices that are in communication with the flip doors/gates, controllers and movable object detectors (sensors) via appropriate communication lines between the receptacle elements and the barrier actuators (for example, see
As further shown in
The controller 1520 also is configured to generate and to detect when a bonus activating event occurs for activation of a bonus game cycle, which may include activation of the movable object delivery device/dispenser 1585 (along with a movable object return mechanism 1595) or agitation system 1590. The controller 1520 will determine which receptacle door/gate to close based on the game outcome determined by the random number generator 1530. Using a sensor(s) 1550, the controller 1520 then can detect when a prize object 18 has been captured by the designated receptacle element 1540 and proceed with the subsequent game step activations.
When the controller 1520 detects a bonus activating event, it may begin a bonus game cycle by activating, for example, the agitation system 1590, the movable object delivery device/dispenser 1585, video screen(s) (not shown), display lights 1570 or light emitting diodes (not shown). These devices may indicate that a player has qualified for a bonus game cycle and may prompt the player to perform an action. A bonus game cycle ends when the controller 1520 deactivates the barrier actuators 1560 and agitation/transport of the prize objects 18 is stopped.
Although the description above contains many specifications, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of various embodiments of this invention. The specification above, for instance, makes reference to bonus prizes. However, the present invention is not thereby intended to be limited to providing bonus prizes. Rather it is intended that the present invention can, in certain embodiments, be used independently as a stand-alone game without necessarily including, or functioning as, a bonus game. Thus, the scope of the invention should be determined by the claims as issued and their legal equivalents rather than by the examples given.